The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury was an absolute master storyteller. His writing is creative and full of moments of pure bitter irony: he was an imaginative genius, nothing more nothing less.
Bradbury picks the bones of society clean; he gnaws at them until he exposes the reality of the marrow beneath. Each story in here has a piece of wisdom to share, a resolution or disaster that could have been easily avoided if man was not so corrupt in his ways. The more I read of his writing the more convinced I become that he was a misanthrope. Time and time again he creates a situation that is pure and good; yet, somehow, man destroys it with his self-obsessed stupidity. And this is his point: humanity is a cancer.
“Long before you knew what death was you were wishing it on someone else.”
Perhaps that’s why Bradbury looked to the stars. He saw that man was ruining earth, so he looked to give him a fresh start. As with the equally as excellent collection of short stories The Martian Chronicles, the planet Mars plays a vital role in the narrative. For Bradbury it represented something new and something clean, a means to rejuvenate and become something more than we are. Within the writing there is a glimpse of hope (an almost extinguished spark) that we can improve and become better; it is faint, though it is there under the humour.
He also built upon his exceptional novel Fahrenheit 451 in the short story ‘Usher II’ creating a tale of revenge in its aftermath of the book burnings. One very disgruntled reader rounds up the government officials, those that passed the book burning laws, and murders them all in a life size re-creation of one of Poe’s most memorable stories. It’s a sharp statement that strikes at the heart of censorship, control and consumerism. It is the words of a man who feared for the future, who feared that one day stories would not be allowed such freedom. Bradbury says whatever he wants, and he urges his readers to do the same.
And all this is told through the markings on a man’s skin. I find the idea of the illustrated man, a man who is covered in tattoos that shift and change telling new stories with every dawn, so clever. It allowed Bradbury to enter any story he chose in here; they could be totally random, and it wouldn’t matter. The stories could go anywhere and be anything. This leads me on to my only criticism: he did not really use that freedom as much as he could of. The stories all related to one key theme or idea, and often involved Mars; however, I think he could have done much more and imagined up a selection of more versatile illustrations/stories if he wanted to.
That being said though, this is an excellent selection of his stories and it showcases what Ray Bradbury does best as he makes fun of mankind.
This The Illustrated Man book review was written by Sean Barrs
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